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Chandeliers

By PAMELA DITTMER MCKUEN
    ‘Tis the season of good cheer, of all things merry and bright. The season of light. Let us infuse our homes with the warm, inviting radiance of a new chandelier.
    A chandelier is different from all other lighting fixtures. For one, it tends to be the largest illuminator we own, and the most visible. Around a dining table, a chandelier dominates. When crowning a foyer, it receives our visitors. Chandeliers can be the signature piece in a room, says architect and designer William Scholtens of Elements Architectural Group in Oak Park.
    Then there’s a mystique that you don’t find with, say, recessed cans or track lighting.
    “Around the globe, the chandelier has and always will be synonymous with dreams of romance, ownership of a beautiful home, and lifetimes of memories shared under its glow,” says Doris Gunther,  director of communications and trends for Swarovski Lighting Business in Plattsburgh, N.Y. “It is an heirloom item that ignites emotion, making a statement wherever it is placed, and is passed on from generation to generation.”
    The word “chandelier” stems from candela, or candle. The earliest versions were candle-holders hung from the ceiling. As glassmaking techniques evolved, crystal accents were added for beauty and light amplification. Bulbs eventually replaced candles, and shades protected the eye from glare. Perhaps the most iconic, in American decorating history at least, is the Williamsburg chandelier, an octopus- like configuration with graceful, curved arms circling a central baluster. The home you grew up in probably had one.
    Modern-day chandeliers are crafted to complement any and every décor. We find orbs, bubbles, bird cages and horizontals. Crystal bedazzles both traditional and contemporary iterations, at times paired with unexpected materials and effects. Schonbek’s “Ekaterina” is a tribute to Catherine the Great, with tiers of candlesticks and crystal drops.
    From Swarovski, “Crystal Empire” wraps a crystal frame with leather straps, and “Cascade” is a visual waterfall of crystal.
    At Room & Board, the aesthetic runs toward modern interpretations of time-honored classics, says Jenon Bailie, accessories merchandise manager.
    Consider Room & Board’s linen drum pendants, offered in five sizes and 30 hand block-printed patterns ($299 to $499). Or the “Hope” pendant,which resembles a ball of crumpled foil. It’s actually a cluster of polycarbonate reflectors, each centered with a tiny bulb ($1960).
    Chandeliers also have gone “green.” You can rewire and repurpose a vintage chandelier, or you can choose high-tech. LED (light-emitting diode) technology is the most desirable energy-saving light form today, says Kara Manning, showroom buyer for Lightology in Chicago. “You get around 50,000 hours, so you’re pretty much never changing bulbs,” she says.
    Do not assume that a single chandelier is enough. After you’ve appointed the dining room, look around and imagine. Scholtens places a chandelier wherever he wants to define a particular space, “like Frank Lloyd Wright’s tall-back chairs created a room-within-a-room around the dining table,” he says. Placements have included breakfast nooks, mud rooms and master closets. He once hung a slowly-turning disco ball in a teenage girl’s bedroom.
    Room & Board’s Bailie envisions pendants as replacements for portable table lamps in reading areas, and a series of small chandeliers in a hallway rather than ceiling-hugging domes.
    What’s next? Your daughter’s school locker? Indeed. LockerLookz offers a 5-inch faux-crystal, battery-operated chandelier for $26. It comes in black or white to coordinate with wallpaper and carpet selections.

Published: December 04, 2011
Issue: 2011 Philanthropy Issue